Text of ACLU/SC statement delivered at Jan. 16 L.A. Police Commission meeting:
This city has had two years to explain the tragedy of the Devin Brown shooting and ensure it will not happen again, and many more years to learn the lessons of the Christopher Commission, the Rampart Commission, and the federal consent decree. As things now stand, we have failed.
American justice is done in the open, but the conduct of LAPD officers is now judged in secrecy. Secrecy communicates dishonesty, and the product of secrecy is distrust that undermines the efforts of good and conscientious officers to do their jobs. Improvement of the LAPD requires trust as a starting point, built on transparency and openness.
The Supreme Court's recent decision in Copley Press surprised the state by pulling police governance out of public view. But today, a chorus that includes this Commission, Chief Bratton, the Mayor, City Council members, state legislators, and community groups is calling for a return to transparent discipline as a basic foundation of sound policing, a foundation for the crucial trust between community and police.
But words alone are not enough. We cannot call for action and leave it to others to act.
First, today, in a public resolution or open letter to the Senate and Assembly leaders, this Commission must demand that Sacramento undo the damage Copley has done.
The Commission and the Chief must also follow through by publicly and vigorously pursuing legislation, formally requesting that the Mayor and City Council make this measure the highest priority of the city's legislative liaison, and working with both community members and officers to ensure that transparency becomes a reality.
Support for restoring transparency is strong and must not be derailed by forces of inertia. The drive to stifle outside criticism and protect the Department from scrutiny has been cited by report after report as a cultural failing in the LAPD. This is the time to address that failing. Abandoning this legislative action would admit that real reform of the LAPD has not yet been and never will be achieved. This Commission has the responsibility to make sure the city's interest in sound police policy and the chance to place real trust in its Police Department are not so lightly cast aside.